Teams need players like Jeff Lockie.
Championship teams need players like Jeff Lockie.
A career backup that might have been a starter for a lot of Division I teams, Lockie will be entering his fourth season in the Oregon program as a redshirt junior. He was not only a backup, but the backup to the best player in Duck football history in Marcus Mariota.
When Mariota announced he was forgoing his senior season for the NFL draft, many figured it would be Lockie taking the reigns for the 2015 season. Taking over for Mariota was going to be a tough task for Lockie, but then Feb. 9 happened.
Not even a month had gone by since Oregon lost to Ohio State when Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams announced he was taking advantage of the senior transfer rule to take his talents to Eugene.
At 6-foot-2, Lockie isn’t a running quarterback. He threw for over 5,500 yards in just two seasons of high school ball. He’s not going to tuck the ball under his arm and start taking off in the first sign of trouble.
Lockie also isn’t going to transfer. When Adams made his future plans known, many just assumed that the best player in Eagles history would be taking over. Lockie could have very well taken the route of Bryan Bennett, another former Duck quarterback.
When there was a competition in camp for the quarterback job between Mariota and Bennett for the 2012 season and Mariota won, Bennett decided to look for greener pastures and playing time elsewhere. Bennett left Oregon, went to Southeast Louisiana and had a stellar career on the FCS level.
Lockie could have very well done the same. But to his credit, Lockie stayed in Eugene and not only did he stay, he tore it up in spring camp and looked like the man in the spring game.
He was perfect.
The Alamo, Calif. native was a perfect 9-of-9 passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns. Lockie went up against the Ducks’ No. 1 defense, a unit that was good in 2014 and looking to be even better in 2015.
“I think the spring game is always way overblown, in terms of its value and impression, but Jeff had a great spring,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said after the spring game back in May. “He did a pretty good job today, in terms of what he was asked to do. As far as what he needs to do to be ‘the guy,’ he had a very good spring. We put a bunch of guys in opportunities to lead throughout the spring and I was very encouraged by that. Jeff Lockie is a very natural leader.”
As it turns out, having Lockie stay might be a blessing for the Ducks.
Although Adams, a two-time Walter Peyton Award runner-up, is coming to Eugene, it’s not a given anymore that he will be taking the first snap for Oregon against Eastern Washington, of all teams. In order to graduate from EWU and be eligible to transfer to the Ducks, Adams is having to pass an online math class. According to several reports, Adams will be taking his final a few days into fall camp. If all goes smoothly and the paperwork is completed, which could take longer than it should, Adams would enter camp a few days late at the earliest.
In the meantime, Lockie has a repore with his receivers and maybe more importantly, his offensive line. He had plenty of reps in practice last season, nearly all of the reps this spring and will be the No. 1 guy in fall camp. The offensive line knows Lockie’s voice, his cadence and how he operates.
Since Chip Kelly came along and now Helfrich, the Ducks rarely do things by the book or how most people expect them to. The coaching staff might very well feel that throwing in Adams with three weeks until Game 1 might be too jarring for the offensive unit and decide to stick with Lockie. Adams might come in and blow away the coaching staff and he does have the talent to do just that.
But when it comes to the Ducks, expect the unexpected.